Over the last few days we’ve had a number of people bleating about the lack of Salfordians getting jobs at the BBC’s new ‘Manchester’ base…..in Salford.  The MEN, The Guardian, Hazel Blears MP (spot a trend?) have all thrown their moans in, after only 24 successful applicants out of over 3,000 applicants came from Salford, and only around a third of the non-internal hires came from Greater Manchester.

Last year, we saw Lord Davies of Abersoch preach to businesses about the lack of women around the boardroom table and signing up a number of politically malleable Head-Hunting firms to a charter to opening discriminate to get more women included in short-lists – despite a wealth of data to highlight that the lack of female representation at the higher grades was down to supply, not prejudice.

Put this against a backdrop of comments from Entrepreneurs and business leaders who consistently cite one of the biggest hindrances to [their] business growth is finding, attracting and engaging the right/best talent.

Spot the issue yet?

Businesses crave and critically need the best talent. The right Head-Hunter will go and find the best talent. Perfect solution…..until the bed-wetters arrive with their rule books, charters, demographic breakdowns, political agendas, diversity policies and enormous range of criteria for you to avoid any potential, vague of-chance of perceived discrimination and/or inequality…..and countering it by openly discriminating.

But it’s ok because this Discrimination is Positive Discrimination (usually as decreed by the same bed-wetters that hold the rule books, and political agendas). The trouble is, it is seldom genuinely positive.

Businesses need the best people to drive their business forward. The BBC in Manchester Salford needs the best people to ensure that the highly contentious move to Manchester Salford is an overwhelming success not only for the BBC and its customers, but also for Salford, Manchester and Greater Manchester.

Appeasing the naysayers, by giving the locals jobs en masse over those better qualified will not help achieve that.

Likewise, telling me that the shortlist I have presented to my client is not good enough because it doesn’t contain sufficient diversity is lunacy – yet thanks to Lord Davies et al., this is the way it is going.

We have already had Europe stamp their feet where they are largely unwelcome, deciding that such wildly discriminatory phrases such as ‘dynamic’, ‘hungry’, ‘fast-paced’, ‘energetic’ etc might not be the best way to attract Mr/Ms Uninspiring/Unmotivated/Underachieving and thus should be outlawed. If they had their way, “Person seeks Accountant” might be as specific as you are allowed to be, publically.

No-one I know would argue against the need to ensure fairness and eradicate discrimination from recruitment and business as a whole, but doing so through further unfairness and further discrimination is not the way to do it.

The only time I have been asked to openly discriminate for any mandate has been to increase the number of a deemed under-populated demograph – including a proudly all-female board that wanted it to stay that way (but ended up hiring a male Finance Director!) Can you imagine if a ‘proudly all-male board’ led business advertised itself as such? And openly searched for a male colleague?

Lord Davies’ well-qualified intervention has increased the number of female directors in the country’s largest companies from 12.5% to almost 15%. Doubtless a positive move in the eyes of the Lord [Davies], but how many better qualified individuals have been discriminated against to ensure a short-list contains its requisite make-up?

The Head-Hunters I have spoken to quietly fly-in-the-face of their employer’s corporate line and admit that they have disregarded better candidates to ensure they hit this politically motivated, arbitrary set level of 25% of shortlists being female.

What then happens when a different Lord decides that a further 25% should come from a different under-represented demographic background? And then a third thinks of a further under represented group? Or geographic location? Or specified hair-colour? Or regional accent?

Imagine delivering the best candidate to your client when over 75% of a 5 person short-list *has* to be from these pre-ordained, irrelevant backgrounds. Are you really delivering the best? Or merely the best within an every lengthening set of constraints? And do you want your business, and it’s performance constrained?

Political correctness or not, I deliver the best shortlist, and the best candidates to my clients. I openly disregard the voluntary charter to ensure X% of shortlists contain arbitrary levels of certain people. I deliver the best.

…..yet ironically, over the past 3 years, more than Lord Davies’ magical 25% of the shortlists I have presented have been female. Because each time, they have been amongst the best candidates for the job.